François Morellet, one of France’s most illustrious artists, has died at the age of 90. Born to a middle class family in western France in 1926, Morellet began painting at the age of 14. He became serious about pursuing a career as an artist while studying in Paris after the Second World War, and after painting semi-figurative scenes for several years, he turned to the abstraction for which he would become revered. Using simple materials – tape, fabric and most distinctively, neon tube lights – he developed a clear, geometrical style that was immediately distinctive in spite of its simplicity.
Morellet’s emphasis on method over finished form – his work was largely predicated on chance and constraint – put him in line with the minimal and conceptual movements that would come to dominate the contemporary art of the period. His involvement with the Grav collective in the 1960s brought him international exposure and serious recognition, and by 2010, when he became only the second living artist to complete a permanent installation at the Louvre, he was widely considered one of Europe’s most eminent contemporary artists. The following year, the Centre Pompidou staged a major retrospective of his work – an honour that confirmed his place at the top of France’s cultural pantheon. Last month, Annely Juda Fine Art and the Mayor Gallery launched simultaneous exhibitions in London (open until 24 June and 27 May respectively) to mark his 90th birthday.